Fourteen more people have been charged in connection with a high-profile 2014 standoff over cattle grazing rights between armed protesters and federal agents at the Nevada ranch of Cliven Bundy, federal prosecutors said on Thursday.
One of the newly-charged defendants, New Hampshire resident and former U.S. Marine Jerry DeLemus, has headed a veterans' group formed by the presidential campaign of Republican Donald Trump.
DeLemus made headlines in January when he traveled to remote eastern Oregon to meet with protesters who occupied the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. DeLemus said at the time he was acting on his own and not as a representative of the Trump campaign.
A total of 19 people have now been indicted in the case, including Cliven Bundy and two of his sons. The defendants face charges including assault on a federal agent, threatening a law enforcement officer, conspiracy, firearms violations.
"This investigation began the day after the assault against federal law enforcement officers and continues to this day," Daniel Bogden, U.S. Attorney for Nevada, said in a written statement issued by his office.
Twelve of the newly indicted defendants were arrested on Thursday, prosecutors said. Two others, Brian Cavalier and Blaine Cooper, were already in custody in connection with the Malheur wildlife refuge occupation.
Bundy's ranch in Bunkerville, Nevada, was the site of the standoff. He became a symbol of defiance for U.S. conservatives, particularly in the Tea Party movement, for confronting the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM), an agency of the U.S. Interior Department.
His sons Ammon and Ryan, helped lead the armed occupation of the Malheur refuge in Oregon.
The dispute between Cliven Bundy and the U.S. government dates back to 1993, when the rancher stopped paying monthly fees the BLM charges ranchers to allow their cattle to roam federal range lands.
Saying Bundy owed more than $1 million in grazing fees and had ignored court orders to remove his cattle from public lands, the BLM sent armed rangers to Bundy's ranch in April 2014 to round up his cattle.
Anti-government groups, gun rights activists and right-wing militia members rallied to Bundy's defense. Following a brief armed standoff, the government backed down, canceled its roundup and released the cattle it had seized.
Bundy's supporters hailed the outcome as a victory over government tyranny. Detractors have called Bundy an outlaw.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax in New York and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by David Gregorio and Andrew Hay)